This week began with Colorado Springs suddenly facing a difficult, yet potentially rewarding, unexpected challenge.
To those of us who remember this city in the best of times, the chance to step in as replacement host for the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships brought back memories of a not-so-long-ago era.
Even before the official word came of Tokyo's withdrawal as the site for skating's biggest annual event, we learned that Colorado Springs was being put forward as an alternative for the International Skating Union.
And why not? The convenience would match the irony. Not only would it be a logical solution, with our easy access (thanks to Denver, and nonstops here from other entry points) for travelers from Europe or Asia, but the sport's history buffs would love returning to Colorado Springs, which hosted Worlds five times at the old Broadmoor World Arena between 1957 and 1975.
The real irony, though, would've been having the Worlds displaced and relocating here exactly 50 years after the plane crash that wiped out the U.S. team and canceled the 1961 World Championships in Prague. Broadmoor coach Edi Scholdan and a handful of local skaters were on that plane, and all their names are on a memorial bench near the former World Arena site.
But the hope quickly faded. Thursday, the ISU announced its decision to move Worlds instead to Moscow, which will satisfy the more influential (and more numerous) European nations in the sport. Moscow has an almost-new, 12,000-seat arena, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin publicly guaranteed taking care of all expenses. Also, skaters won't have to deal with the 6,000-foot altitude here, another factor mentioned against Colorado Springs — though it hasn't detracted from skating events here many times in the past.
It's too bad, because the door was briefly open for Colorado Springs to capitalize. Just like old times. Yet, for several reasons, starting with the absence of energetic leadership willing to take risks, we came up short.
We didn't have any person or entity with the power, resources and (most of all) fortitude to pull it all together and prevail, Putin or not. Nobody like the late William Thayer Tutt, who while in command at The Broadmoor had friends throughout the world in both figure skating and hockey.
Until he died in 1989, if any scenario such as this had come up, Tutt would have made two or three phone calls overseas, called in city leaders for a quick strategy session, made any financial commitment necessary — and the deal would have been done.
Sadly, it can't be like that anymore. From the 1950s through the '80s, Colorado Springs seized every extraordinary chance that came along — and created others along the way. Like hosting the NCAA Hockey Tournament throughout the 1950s, and several times later. Like major golf events such as the U.S. Men's Amateur and Women's Amateur. Like bringing the World Hockey Championship to North America (and Colorado Springs) for the first time in 1962. Or convincing U.S. skating and hockey, then the U.S. Olympic Committee itself, to move headquarters here. Or landing the first two National Sports Festivals in 1978 and 1979, then again on short notice in 1983 after Los Angeles backed out. Also, the World Cycling Championships in 1986.
Yes, it's still possible for The Broadmoor to be a grand golf theater, with the U.S. Women's Open returning this summer. And we've had other successful events in recent years, such as the State Games of America.
But the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships would have been worth the colossal undertaking, with thousands of visitors and major economic impact. All kinds of local volunteers were ready to jump in.
Given better timing, a new Colorado Springs mayor could have made the most of this moment, calling on the USOC to help in the name of international relations and goodwill, leaning on The Broadmoor and El Pomar Foundation among others to step in, and bringing the city a global event that would have made everyone proud. It could've even helped create a new, more positive image for the Springs.
It won't be the end of the world because it's the end of the Worlds. But regardless, this will go down as a big one that got away.
And if that gives Colorado Springs a wake-up call for the future, so be it.
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